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"We need to stay grounded in our shared and dangerous reality," writes Kaufman, not be distracted by the grand illusionist who will be the next U.S. president. (Photo: AP)

Unicorns, Gnomes, and Plea to the Press on Covering Trump

Cynthia Kaufman

On January 11 finally Trump held his much awaited press conference. And it was a terrifying success. The press faithfully covered a wild and strange show. But we don't need to be told about the show that was performed. What we needed was a consistent grounding in reality.

It was as if, covering the moment when Dorothy and her friends finally get their meeting with the Wizard of Oz, the press covered the strange images the wizard produced and the fascinating way he produced those images. Rather than reporting on the small man from Kansas who had lost his way and had managed to dominate a nation based on is ability to create illusions and distractions.

USA Today was almost unique in cutting through the illusion and reporting only on the lies that were told. Reading their coverage, I felt such a surprising sense of clarity about the way forward for how we talk about the house of mirrors we are trapped in.

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah argues that when Trump starts talking about a competition between unicorns and gnomes, if the press in any way focuses unicorns and gnomes, we have lost. We lose when we enter the world of unicorns and gnomes.

The story of the appalling press conference of January 11 needs to be the story of the lies that were told, the status of the very real and legitimate questions that the reporters asked but which were not answered, and the insistence on the importance of getting answers to those real questions.

We need to stay grounded in our shared and dangerous reality, and not get sucked into an analysis of the illusions created by a master illusionist.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Cynthia Kaufman

Cynthia Kaufman

Cynthia Kaufman is the author of  "The Sea is Rising and So Are We", "Challenging Power: Democracy and Accountability in a Fractured World" (2020),  "Getting Past Capitalism: History, Vision, Hope" (2012), and "Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change" (2016). She is the director of the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action at De Anza College. She blogs at

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